A.P. Patrick

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A.P. Patrick

Allan Patrick was particularly well-known in that part of the North-West Territories now known as Southern Alberta. A certain amount of eminence automatically accrues to the holder of a Dominion Topographical Surveyor's Certificate - no mean achievement - but he was also the first discoverer of oil in Alberta.

Allan Poyntz Patrick was the son of Alfred Poyntz Patrick, CMG, Clerk of the House of Commons, Ottawa, from 1827 to 1877 and Tirzah Hopkins Patrick. He was born in Montreal on July 18, 1848 and educated at Upper Canada College. On July 8, 1869, he passed the preliminary examinations as an article student. He qualified as a Provincial Land Surveyor for Ontario on April 16, 1873 after being articled to Robert Sparks, PLS and in 1874, at the age 25, was taking part in surveys under Lindsay Russell, Surveyor General of Canada and also in exploratory work north of Lake Superior for the Canadian Pacific Railway and on Special Surveys work in Manitoba helping to establish the principal meridian.

He qualified as a Dominion Land Surveyor on November 19, 1877 and also that year attained his commission as Dominion Topographical Surveyor, Number 8.

At this early time in his career, Allan's health had been poor but he began to thrive on the rough life and outdoor activity which accompanied his first assignment from Ottawa - a topographic survey between Highwood River and Waterton. In the summer of 1878, in the company of a trapper, Lafayette French, with whom he had struck up a friendship, the two found oil seepages along the banks of Cameron Creek, a small stream in what is now Waterton Lakes National Park. Although oil from the seepages was used locally for a while, Patrick was unsuccessful at first in attracting anyone with capital to develop his find.

In 1889, he filed a formal claim to 640 acres covering the site and eventually in 1901, Patrick and interested backers formed a company with sufficient capital resources to drill on the property. Drilling began in November 1901 and on September 21, 1902 at a depth of 1,020 feet, the drillers struck oil. The location was Section 30, Township 1, Range 30, West of 4th Meridian, approximately 25 miles southwest of Pincher Creek and it was forthwith christened - somewhat optimistically - "Crude Oil City."

Although several storage tanks of 2,000 gallons each were filled initially, formidable obstacles began to arise with the drill-rig and the underground terrain. Tools became lodged in the hole, the casing ruptured, and the steam-powered equipment proved incapable of dealing with the various problems. Soon, operations became spasmodic and in 1907 drilling in the Waterton area was suspended.

Patrick was a member of the Queen's Own Rifles serving in the Fenian Raids of 1866 and 1870 and he held the Fenian Medal with two bars. After the Rebellion, he homesteaded on Section 12, Township 24, Range 2, West of the Fifth Meridian near the western limit of Calgary and he named his ranch, "Holmpatrick." In 1887, he married Margaret Charlotte McPherson from Pictou, Nova Scotia. She predeceased him in 1940.

Known to close friends as "A.P.," he became one of the first cattle ranchers in the high country south of Calgary as in 1879 he started the Mount Royal Ranch on the Ghost River. Patrick was also kept busy during the 1880s surveying the Stoney and Sarcee Indian Reserves for the Dominion Government in 1881 and in surveying townsites along the route of the CPR from Fort Macleod northwards to Edmonton. He also served in the field in the campaign against Louis Riel in 1885. In 1890, he qualified to practice land surveying in British Columbia and in 1911 he officially became an Alberta Land Surveyor upon the formation of the Alberta Land Surveyors’ Association.

Patrick's stamina seems to have developed as he grew older. He was still surveying at age 94, when he fell and broke his hip. At the time he was the oldest practicing land surveyor in English-speaking Canada. He had come to be regarded as the father of commercial oil production in Canada, although his first strike - still labelled "Crude Oil City 1878-1954" - remained abandoned after several drilling attempts over the years.

Patrick was an honorary member of the Dominion Land Surveyors Association and the Alberta Land Surveyors’ Association and he was a member of the Council of the City of Calgary for two years. His hobbies were the raising and training of bird dogs, hunting upland game birds, gardening, and bridge.

Allan Poyntz Patrick died a few months before his 99th birthday, on April 8, 1948, at his home in Calgary. He was survived by two sons (A.W. Patrick and L.R. Patrick) and five daughters (Mrs. J.C. Glenday, Mrs. L. Morrison, Mrs. G. Spence, Mrs. P.E. Heather, and Mrs. T.E. Vickers).

Robert W. Allen, BCLS, CLS and H. Barry Cotton, BCLS